Bulletin 14 - 11th October 2016

Alistair Hutchinson in his Renault Clio
Alistair Hutchinson in his Renault Clio
Barry and Michael Lindsay, Peugeot 106Kenny Moore / Richard Wardle, Hillman AvengerStephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster in the Vauxhall NovaNigel and Helen Harkness, Vauxhall CorsaKevin and Jimmy Knox in the BMW M3

Barry and Michael Lindsay, Peugeot 106Kenny Moore / Richard Wardle, Hillman AvengerStephen Bethwaite and Ann Forster in the Vauxhall NovaNigel and Helen Harkness, Vauxhall CorsaKevin and Jimmy Knox in the BMW M3

                                                  

We have new champions.

 

Not for the first time, our championship would be decided over the once daunting military ranges above the sleepy, historic village of Otterburn.  The venue along with the competing cars and their crews may have evolved with the passage of time but the Cheviot Stages Rally still provides a stern challenge to both man and machine.  And as ever, no matter what time of year we visit this beautiful National Park, the unpredictable weather is just around the corner waiting to play its part too. 

 

So come 9:00 on the morning of the rally, we had Alistair Hutchinson duelling with Barry Renwick for the driver’s title while in the co-driver’s table it was also down to the final two as well – Ann Forster and Richard Wardle.

 

The opening 7 mile test fell to Barry, as his Proton was quickly up to speed and fared better with the longer straights as he pulled out 8 seconds on Alistair.  The Riverside stage was next and although the shortest of the event by length, it was also very twisty and suited the nimble Renault Clio as Alistair took back 10 seconds in just 2 and a half miles.  The next stage was very close but the Renault claimed another second advantage to go into first service 3 seconds to the good. 

A repeat of these three stages was next up before lunch but there would be no replay of this tactical battle as just a mile into the Cottonshope test, Alistair would sail past the Proton parked up at the side of the road.  Barry and Paul Hughes were left helpless passengers sitting in the stricken car with injector failure.  As Barry was needing to finish ahead of Alistair to have any hope to taking the championship, the man from Mickleton could have called it a day there and then and still be champion.  

 

However Alistair who had his son Joe sitting alongside him again, continued into the afternoon and despite losing a little time with a puncture and doubtful wheel bearing he came home in an excellent 7th overall and 1st in class.  For Barry Renwick it would be a case of runner up again for the second consecutive year and I’m sure he’ll be hoping these things don’t come in threes.

 

In the battle for the co-driver’s crown, Ann Forster would start the day 6 points ahead of Richard Wardle but they would both have to drop a score after the Cheviot and Ann’s would be a score of 6 while Richard’s would be his 1 scored on the Christmas Stages.  Ann was in front so this would put pressure on Richard’s driver Kenny Moore to get to the finish.  On top of that, Richard was sitting in a 2 litre powered Hillman Avenger while Ann was alongside her usual pilot Stephen Bethwaite in his 1400cc Vauxhall Nova.  Once again it wouldn’t be a straightforward shoot out on equal terms and there could be lots of variables on the day.  

One of these ‘variables’ would be the weather as both Kenny and Stephen weren’t happy with their opening lap of three stages.  Stephen made his choice in a bright and sunny service that he would start with slicks and then a couple of miles into SS1, the rains came.  Back in first service, both crews knew they’d made the wrong decisions on tyres but were grateful to still be going with the Avenger being 23 seconds up.

For the repeat lap, Kenny moved onto a more conservative choice while Stephen took another gamble with his slicks and it rained again for part of the stages.  It was no surprise then that Moore and Wardle took another minute out of their rivals and held a more comfortable lead of 87 seconds.  The afternoon stages were dry and suited the little Nova better as the timesheets showed that Stephen and Ann only dropped 28 seconds in 32 miles.  It was always going to be a big ask when all factors were equal but they weren’t the same and Kenny and Richard would delighted to be classified as 17th overall at he finish.

 

Bethwaite and Forster were just 2 places behind in 19th position and class winners once again.  On most days they would have been happy to finish so close but today they would end up with that ‘so close … but not close enough’ feeling.  Once the number crunching was done for our co-driver’s title and taking into account their best 5 scores, Ann and Richard were dead level on 69 points.  However, the tiebreak on greatest number of highest scores would go to Richard at the second attempt.  A tough one for Ann as she’d been leading the category since the Summer Stages in June and yet ended up being piped at the post.  But she can take heart that all her points were scored while competing in the ‘baby’ class of up to 1400cc reminding us all that power isn’t everything in this championship.

 

It was busy at the sharp end for these four crews but there were lots of others coming away from the rally with tales of success and failure.  Andrew Roughead would take top co-driver’s points after a cracking 5th overall with the non-registered Martin Wilkinson.  Martin’s not rallied or competed over Otterburn Ranges for quite a few years now and wheeled out a ‘new’ gorgeous Ford Escort Mk II for the occasion.  Only a puncture slowed progress while the confidence just grew as the day went on; Jane Nicol was next in a quick Mitsubishi Evo6 that ended up 20 seconds adrift in 6th overall; Ken Bills was sitting alongside his visiting driver from down south again relying on Ken’s local knowledge to steer their Mitsubishi Evo9 into 11th overall; Callum Atkinson was another to bag a good set of points while guiding “Banner’ and his usual Ford Escort around a venue he hadn’t visited for over 25 years.

 

It was good to see Barry and Michael Lindsay at the final Main Control of a rally again as 2016 hasn’t been one of their better years.  Barry lost a lot of time with a spin on SS4 and had to do a ‘several points turn’ as he struggled to see while reversing when wearing a head restraint but was generally pleased to finish the event in 11th overall.  The husband and wife team from Spadeadam, Nigel and Helen Harkness were next after a day that they were constantly topping up the engine oil at each service, possible cause being pointed in the direction of a valve stem. Ronnie Roughead received a late call up to sit in with the non-registered Ian Paterson and they brought their BMW home in 31st place; Jeff and Owen Malthouse had another steady run to bring their little Peugeot 205 home in 33rd; Kevin Mathers / Craig Forsyth were making some progress in the morning but the Peugeot’s little engine just didn’t want to rev in the afternoon and they slipped away to 35th position; the Knox brothers would end up in a lowly 38th place after getting a stage maximum when their BMW M3 beached on loads of thick grass on the second run through the Dudlees test and Mark Casey was our final points scorer as he co-drove for the non registered Gordon Watson in another Peugeot 205.

 

As to be expected, there were a few retirements apart from Barry Renwick / Paul Hughes although they weren’t the first to leave the fray as that honour fell to John Nicholson and Peter Littlefield when their Ford Escort failed to start and they never made it to MTC1; Gary Laverick / Phil Kenny hit the wooden bridge on the first run through Riverside and retired with damaged suspension; the GTM of Ed Todd and Andy Brown also performed the same feat next time around learning that wet wood doesn’t offer much grip to tyres; Michael Farmer / Bruce Lindsay found some mechanical reliability with the Ford Focus on the recent rally at Kames but this time lost the car at the last chicane in Cottonshope2 and ended up in a ditch; Andrew Falconer was in the new Impreza built and driven by Tristan Pye and their test session for the forthcoming Mull Rally ended at final service as they retired from 4th overall happy to keep the car in one piece; and James Thomson was our last man to go when he lost drive coming up the last hill of the last stage – he felt he’d been greedy with some ditch hooking on the previous test and hoped to make it to the end but that’s not the way James’ luck has gone this year.

 

 Once again it fell to Whickham and District Motor Club who along with Hadrian Motor Sports Club provided us with another Ford Parts Cheviot Rally.  The rally started every stage on time and the stage changes and turn arounds happened seamlessly.  It’s just a shame that they weren’t rewarded with more competitors for all their efforts.  Running a rally on these range roads doesn’t get any easier with constant changes from the MSA and the venue owners and occupiers and yet rallying up there still holds a strong appeal for many folk.

 

That’s the competition over on the stages for now but our final ‘event’ of the year will be the annual Awards Presentation.  As is the norm now, you can expect it to take place sometime soon at the Pelaw Grange Stadium.  We’re still working on the fine details and will make another announcement in the coming days.